Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Ryan Gosling To Star In 'Blade Runner 2' Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: New Trailer For 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Flies Into The Galaxy Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' Watch: First Teaser Trailer For Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight' 'Macbeth,' Todd Haynes' 'Carol,' Pixar's 'Inside Out' Lead 2015 Cannes Film Festival Line-Up 'Macbeth,' Todd Haynes' 'Carol,' Pixar's 'Inside Out' Lead 2015 Cannes Film Festival Line-Up Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Watch: Zack Snyder Teases The Full Trailer For ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' & Upcoming IMAX Event Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Ryan Gosling & Edgar Wright Talk 'Lost River,' Shooting In Detroit, And Advice For First Time Filmmakers Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix & Marvel's 'Daredevil': The Pros, The Cons, The Verdict Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Netflix's 'Daredevil' Is An Awesome Achievement And Marvel's Most Graphic & Grounded Effort To Date Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Action-Packed Footage In 2 New “Avengers: Age of Ultron’ TV Spots, Plus Watch Interviews With The Entire Cast Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Watch: Trailer For 'The Great Beauty' Director Paolo Sorrentino's 'Youth' Starring Michael Caine & Rachel Weisz Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Joss Whedon Says He's Not Making 'Avengers: Infinity War' Because It's "A Young Man’s Game" Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing Watch: Take 7 Minutes And Learn The History Of Film Editing 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Called "Amazing" And "More Emotional" With "Insane Action" After First Screening Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" Joss Whedon Calls 'Jurassic World' Clip "70s Era Sexist" The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Sundance Review: 'Concerning Violence' An Intelligent, Bracing Look At The Dynamics Of Colonial Power

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 24, 2014 at 3:47PM

When psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon published "The Wretched Of The Earth" in 1961, it was immediately banned in France, and given the provocative nature of the text perhaps it's not a surprise. The quote of above is just one of many viewpoints Fanon presents in his book without compromise, with the author taking the position that an oppressed and/or occupied people will eventually push back against their oppressors/occupiers, and that this isn't so much a decision as it is a (justifiable) inevitability.
0
Concerning Violence

“And it is clear that in the colonial countries the peasants alone are revolutionary, for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The starving peasant, outside the class system is the first among the exploited to discover that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization a simply a question of relative strength.” ― Frantz Fanon, "The Wretched of the Earth"

When psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon published "The Wretched Of The Earth" in 1961, it was immediately banned in France, and given the provocative nature of the text perhaps it's not a surprise. The quote of above is just one of many viewpoints Fanon presents in his book without compromise, with the author taking the position that an oppressed and/or occupied people will eventually push back against their oppressors/occupiers, and that this isn't so much a decision as it is a (justifiable) inevitability. And this is just a small part of a text that examines the power structures of colonialism closely, digging into the way education, religion and labor can all be used to subjugate. It's a dense and academic book, and yet, powerful too. Using it as a basis for a documentary opens up the filmmaker to a minefield of potential missteps, but Göran Hugo Olsson avoids them all with "Concerning Violence," a resonant, intelligent exploration of Fanon's work through the lens of rebellious movements in Africa in the '60s and 70s.

Olsson's previous film was the excellent "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975," which utilized vintage footage of Swedish journalists reporting on the black power movement, to shine a new light on that era. And once again, Olsson goes digging into the Swedish Television archives, and coming up with some rather astonishing, unfiltered material chronicling the anti-imperialist liberation actions in Africa. And letting that video speak for itself, Olsson chapters the film into 9 parts, hires Ms. Lauryn Hill to narrate, and uses Fanon's own words from "The Wretched Of The Earth" to give context to what we're seeing. And like he did for 'Mixtape,' this approach once again has us consider these revolutions in a whole new light.

Indeed, the structure Olsson utilizes has a twofold effect: one the one hand, it illustrates Fanon's concepts, providing real life examples of peoples across Africa and confirming his posit about the nature and practices of the colonized and colonists. Second, it demonstrates, in the disparate protests across the continent, a unifying pattern—one that is hard to dismiss and must be considered—that a "conquered" nation will submit to a system until action is required to re-balance the scales. And so, as "Concerning Violence" follows the MPLA in Angola, FRELIMO in Mozambique, striking mine workers in Liberia or the harsh words about Western aid from President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara, it's all within a greater picture of resistance and reclamation.

While Olsson's focus on the Fanon's ideas are admirable, "Concerning Violence" does occasionally become disorienting. Early chapters of the film are much shorter than later segments, which throws the pacing of the documentary off balance. Moreover, while the film does provide some (usually scant) background as it jumps from country to country, there are times when you wish there was just a little more information provided to set up the next stop in the film's continental journey. But this is really a minor issue, as the footage Olsson provides has an immediacy that is riveting and occasionally bracing. The unsung journalists (though the film is a quiet credit to their work) are unflinching in their reportage, capturing images that take viewers right to the ground, and with the people who are bravely standing against a power structure designed to crush them spiritually, emotionally and physically.

There is another school of thought on "Concerning Violence" that could have made this a more scholastic and careful picture. But thankfully, Olsson doesn't care for such niceties. His documentary is not only a searing look at Europe's painful involvement in participating, encouraging and backing regimes of oppression, but "Concerning Violence" makes it clear that not much has changed in the fifty years since Fanon's powerful words were first printed. This machinery is still at work in global politics and business, invested in the exploitation of Africa. "Concerning Violence" suggests that the lesson has yet to be learned, and it's only a matter a time until history repeats itself again, and action is taken. [A-]

Browse through all our coverage of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival by clicking here. 

This article is related to: Concerning Violence, Sundance Film Festival, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates